Snow Creek Ridge

Date Reviewed:September, 2002
Location:Neah Bay
Site Description:Incredible 20-30 foot high rock ridge
Main Attraction:Spectacular marine life and topography

This site just ROCKS! I have only been privileged enough to dive it once so far, but I plan on diving it every time I go back to the Neah Bay area. This is one of the best dives I have EVER done.

This is another of the outstanding "ridge" dives that are found with fair abundance in the Neah Bay area. The waters around Neah Bay are blessed with many of these ridges in diver accessible depths. The rugged, current swept substrate in this area is usually very flat, except for these massive ridges that jut up 20 to 30 feet above the substrate. These ridges often run for well over half a mile.

Most of these ridges seem to run in a northwest direction, and this one is no exception. At times, it appears to head due north, however. From the name of this dive site, you can gather that this ridge is located off of Snow Creek Resort, which in turn is located next to - you guessed it - Snow Creek. This resort is located about 2 miles east of Neah Bay . You pass it on the only road into Neah Bay.

The "resort" is basically a small store, an air compressor for tank fills, some "cabins", RV parking, a "track" boat launch, picnic tables, and restroom facilities. I believe it is only open in the late Spring through early Fall. The air compressor here looks questionable. I have only had two fill from this compressor, and the air "tasted" fine. Regardless, I prefer to get my fills at Curley's in Sekiu.

Anyway, this incredible reef is directly out from Snow Creek Resort. In fact, you can find the reef with a depth sounder and a good eye. The reef is WELL off shore, and starts in about 60 fsw. We found the reef by following the "tracks" for the boat launch at Snow Creek Resort straight out. Like magic, the reef appeared on our depth sounder maybe half a mile off shore. Once we found the reef, we anchored on top.

We were diving this site for the first time off-slack on the ebb. The current was actually near it's maximum ebb when we got in the water. However, we were told by some locals that once you duck in behind the ridge, the current is almost non-existent. If the locals were wrong, me might beat the boat back to Neah Bay.

Upon entry, the current was moving pretty good. After joking about how the Bull Kelp has having a hard time breaking the surface, we geared up, questioned our sanity, and descended on the anchor line. We had to climb down the anchor line hand over fist, else risk being swept away by the current. With 40 feet of vis, the current swept ridge quickly appeared beneath us. The first thing I noticed was the huge gathering of tall Bull Kelp clinging to the top of the ridge. The current was so strong, however, that none of it was near to breaking the surface. Most of it was poised in a horizontal direction! The next thing I noticed was a sheer, relatively tall wall that made up the down-current side of the ridge. This wall seemed to go on endlessly in either direction and was met at the base by a beautiful white shell bottom!

However, before we could drop in behind the ridge, we had to dislodge the boat anchor that looked hopelessly tangled in kelp and lodged between rocks on the top of the ridge. After some effort and a few choice word muttered through our regulators, we tossed the anchor off the top of the reef and watched it dangle above the bottom, quickly moving away from us. We figured the boat driver would eventually clue in that we were able to set him adrift so he could follow us.

Excited, it was time to get out of the hellacious current and drop in behind the ridge. Like magic, the current seemed to almost completely stop the instant we dropped in. To greet us was what I consider NW diving paradise - a sheer, endless wall, ragged with massive cracks, small caves, deep fissures and rugged ledges. At the base of the wall were boulders of all sizes - some as big as a car. Some of the boulders were piled up, others stood alone. At the base of all this was a beautiful white shell bottom, similar to what we find down deep at Waadah Island Fingers. With the 40+ foot vis, this place is an explorers paradise!

The only thing that outclassed the breathtaking topography was the marine life. We counted eight species of rockfish on this dive - all in fair to great abundance. HUGE schools of Black Rockfish accompanied us through out the entire dive. Blue Rockfish were scattered in amongst the schooling Black Rockfish. Most of the time, these schooling fish would hold just off the top of the ridge, just before the current got really tough. I assume they were waiting for the currents to bring them a meal.

In addition to the Black and Blue Rockfish, we ran into small schools of Canary Rockfish. I have heard that this species is endangered or protected, and Neah Bay is the only place I have seen them. I must have run into 20 Canary Rockfish while diving here. These fish are a beautiful shade or brilliant orange, highlighted with white markings. Younger fish sport a dark spot on the dorsal. We also found plenty of colorful Quillback, Copper, Tiger, Yellowtail, and China Rockfish stationed throughout the ridge.

While we weren't busy gawking at the rockfish, we were busy dodging good sized Cabezon and Lingcod. The Lingcod seemed to be everywhere at this site, most running between 30" and 48". We did find a couple of huge females that appeared to be over 54" long. Everywhere we went on this ridge, there seemed to be another Lingcod or Cabezon. Seeing how healthy the Lingcod population was in this area made me consider spear fishing for the first time. Well, I just considered it! As I couldn't figure out how to make a spear gun with a diving reel, safety sausage, bungee cord, and dive knife, I thought I would further contemplate spear fishing before actually partaking.

The invertebrate life on the reef is outstanding. Sponges, hydrocorals, snails, nudibranchs, name it, it was here and seemed to be in whatever color you could imagine.

On this dive, we spotted five Wolf-eels, one leisurely sitting on a boulder out in the open. I never get tired of watching these eel-like fish swim through the open water. They almost seem to defy physics the way they effortlessly snake through the water.

And of course, what would a premiere dive site be without an octopus encounter? On this dive, we found a medium sized octopus half out in the open. Although it did not appear to be too enthralled with out presence, it did tolerate us briefly before retreating under a rock.

The current on the reef during our dive was very light, and moved us gently in a NW direction, so that is the way we went. We swam out from the wall on many occasions to investigate the boulder fields, and still did not encounter much current. By the time we were out of no-deco bottom time, our depth was 80 feet. We found a tall part of the ridge, and ascended from that point, leaving the ridge in 50 fsw in a moderate current. The current did seem to diminish as we got deeper. After a very lengthy safety stop (actually staged at 30 feet, 20 feet and 10 feet) we surfaced and discovered that we had traveled close to half a mile.

We were so taken with this dive, that we wanted to do it again. We went back to our original entry point, anchored, and started our 1:20 of surface interval. We assumed that the current would lessen the further from max current and closer to slack we got. Well, we were wrong. After an hour and 10 minutes, the wind had kicked up from the west, and the swell had increased in intensity from the same direction. The current was running east. The Bull Kelp that we were joking about earlier was now DEEPER than before. According to my boat speedometer, the current had picked up from 0.8 mph to 1.5 mph, despite the wind and swell. We stuck a fin in perpendicular to the water, and it IMMEDIATELY bent 90 degrees. Hmm. Ridge or no ridge, this seemed a little extreme. Looks like we will have to wait to dive here another time!

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